Despite losing members, going through dating scandals, and just generally creating a ruckus in the K-pop world, Exo continues to dominate with every comeback. And because no one seems satisfied with one title track anymore, Exo has released two MVs that complement each other’s duality, the light and the dark, “Lucky One” (check out our review here!) and “Monster.” This review will focus on the latter of the two, the black sheep of the comeback.
“Monster” couldn’t sound more like an Exo song if it tried. It really channels a lot of the same tones, beats, and progressions as the songs from their previous albums, to the point that when the chorus drops it feels like you could substitute a different Exo chorus into the song and it would still work. In particular, it is reminiscent of “Overdose” and the “someone call the doctor” progression – someone call the doctor, you can call me monster, same difference as far as I can tell both syllabically and tonally.
Which isn’t to say that some similarity is a bad thing. In fact, the branded Exo sound is extremely appealing to many people, myself included; so although it may not be the most innovative song, “Monster” is still enjoyable and replay-able. In particular, the vocal acrobatic manipulation at the end of the chorus struck a chord with me, as is often the case it is those little moments of uniqueness that carry a song for listeners already familiar with the group’s sound. If you’ve never liked Exo before, you probably won’t care for this either, but that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.
Unsurprisingly, the lyrics of “Monster” are fairly typical in their focus on love and relationships, but more than slightly concerning in their controlling and creepy tone. EXO are calling themselves monsters, and given the rest of the lyrics I’m inclined to agree with them. Just to give a sample of the overall feel:
“I’ll play with you however I want, play inside my hands, don’t run away, you’ll forever linger near, you can call me monster. I’m creeping in your heart babe, I’ll flip you over, break you down and swallow you up, I’ll steal you and indulge in you, I’m gonna mess you up.”
Whether the protagonist’s manipulative language is referring to literal or emotional breaking down of this woman, it isn’t exactly the type of love song you’d want to hear from your new beau. The lyrics have approximately nothing to do with the MV, the only connection to be drawn is the “dangerous” aspect of the Exo members’ personas as violent protesters which make them out to be monstrous; completely different from the type of monster the lyrics portray, but in the end I suppose we should be thankful for the disconnect between the MV and the lyrics, because the storyline of a creepy, controlling lover isn’t exactly cute or sexy.
What we end up with is another loosely formed story in a MV to justify a particular aesthetic. The “Monster” MV has a reverse time progression, in keeping with a common Exo theme or superpower, beginning at the end and then working its way back to the beginning of the story. We see a car burning in reverse, Exo both coming to and leaving a dinner table, and most obviously a watch ticking backward as shattered dishes put themselves back together. Although the members’ beaten-up faces seem out of place in the beginning, as time winds backwards we are shown them receiving the injuries during participation in some form of protest.
Because the story is so loose, as previously mentioned, there isn’t any great amount of meaning or nuance to be gleaned from “Monster.” In the end, Baekhyun comes and saves his companions, freeing them from the back of the law enforcement van, allowing them to walk into a figurative sunset as one big group, but we have no context, no inclination of their motives, no idea what them protesting has to do with being a monster. Overall, as visually high-quality as the “story” sections of the MV are, they serve little purpose other than to given an excuse to use edgy makeup techniques to make Exo look like rugged bad-asses that can take a beating.
And honestly as far as styling goes, I wish everyone had been styled like Baekhyun instead, because he looks incredible. There is something about idols done up in fake facial piercings – perhaps the taboo of it all, or simply the intricacy of the adornment bringing out their features — that is always aesthetically appealing. Yes, the beaten down, rugged, bloody look is apt to the “story” of the MV, but in the end it is hardly the most flattering choice and there are better ways to emphasize manliness and monstrousness – they should take a leaf out of Big Bang’s book next time.
As usual, the dancing saves the MV in many ways. First, though, one pressing question: Who decided to give Suho a dance solo? But seriously, it was that moment and many others that made this MV and song work. The striking back-lit scenes where Exo appeared just as black silhouettes, the far back shots allowing the entire group and choreography to be showcased, the pleasantly nondescript outfit in the concrete-smoke machine set, and of course Kai absolutely slaying it as usual all combine to make the dancing a prime reason to watch this MV – and then watch it again.
More than anything else, though, it is the choreography that focuses on utilizing the entire group to create interesting visual patterns and progressions that stands out. It’s that extra step that takes it above just dancing the same dance at the same time, it is a level of team work and team utilization that actually makes the dance interesting to watch.
Overall, there isn’t anything I can pinpoint as necessarily bad about this MV or song (except maybe the lyrics), but there isn’t much that stands out either. It’s a good K-pop MV, but it isn’t a special K-pop MV. I believe we can all look forward to the dance version and the live performances because the dance will shine and the members will look handsome, but at the end of the day it’s just more Exo – so take it or leave it.
MV/Song Rating: 3/5